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Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Soup) Recipe

pot of budae jjigae on table
pot of budae jjigae on table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Budae jjigae is a popular Korean dish that almost begs to be asked about its history. Outfitted with unusual ingredients like spam, hot dogs, and American cheese, it is evident that the dish wasn't made for menus of high-class Korean restaurants. As outlined in our rundown of the dish's history, the stew was created during the Korean War, when Koreans lacked typical food sources and began collecting meats and leftovers from American army bases. The salty, non-perishable additions to traditional Korean cooking techniques resulted in a rich stew full of umami that, even after the war ended, remained popular throughout Korea. It's typical to serve budae jjigae as a traditional hot pot that simmers at the tabletop. If you're new to Korean food, this is the place to start: It's fun, familiar, and totally customizable. You can throw anything into it, but recipe developer Michelle McGlinn recommends starting with the common classics: tofu, Spam, hot dogs, gochujang, and plenty of kimchi. Paired with slippery, chewy ramen noodles and gooey American cheese, budae jjigae is a perfect introduction to Korean cuisine -- or a warming classic for those already in love with the food.

Read more: Common Mistakes Everyone Makes With Hot Dogs

Gather The Ingredients For Budae Jjigae

ingredients for budae jjigae on a table
ingredients for budae jjigae on a table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

This budae jjigae recipe is fairly straightforward and serves as a great starting point for more elaborate stews. For this recipe, you'll need garlic, scallions, gochujang, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, fish sauce, chicken broth, and kimchi to build the brothy base. For the stew ingredients, grab firm or extra-firm tofu (and remember to drain it well), Spam, hot dogs, ramen noodles, and American cheese. Don't sweat finding the most expensive ingredients for this stew -- it's meant to be made with the basics.

Step 1: Whisk The Sauce Over Heat

sauce cooking in pot
sauce cooking in pot - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

In a shallow braising pot or hot pot, whisk together the garlic, chopped white scallions, gochujang, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and fish sauce over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Step 2: Arrange The Stew Ingredients

spam and hot dog in pot
spam and hot dog in pot - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Arrange the Spam, hot dogs, tofu, and kimchi around the pot.

Step 3: Pour In The Broth

pot filled with chicken broth
pot filled with chicken broth - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Add the chicken broth slowly so that the stew ingredients stay arranged neatly.

Step 4: Bring To A Boil

pot covered with lid
pot covered with lid - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Cover and bring to a boil.

Step 5: Add The Noodles

noodles in budae jjigae pot
noodles in budae jjigae pot - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Add the ramen noodles and cook, flipping once, until soft, about 3 minutes.

Step 6: Add The Cheese

pot of budae jjigae with cheese
pot of budae jjigae with cheese - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Add the cheese and the green slices of scallions and remove from the heat.

Step 7: Serve

pot of budae jjigae on table
pot of budae jjigae on table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Allow cheese to melt slightly, then serve warm.

Can I Make Vegetarian Budae Jjigae?

tofu in budae jjigae pot
tofu in budae jjigae pot - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

While budae jjigae is typically associated with tinned meats like Spam and hot dogs, you can still make a meatless version that is just as good. To start, replace the fish sauce in the base with vegan Worcestershire or omit it entirely (it's just there for extra umami). To add plant-based umami, brown shiitake mushrooms in the pot before beginning the recipe, then add the browned mushrooms to the stew with the broth. Keep the tofu and add raw or soft-boiled eggs, sliced seitan, water chestnuts, baby corn, and bok choy. Cook until all the ingredients are soft and soaked in bright red sauce, then add the noodles and cheese. For a closer comparison to the authentic budae jjigae recipe, seek out vegan lunch meat and vegan cocktail sausages, which will offer the same salty, processed flavor that is so appealing in the original.

Can I Freeze Budae Jjigae?

pot of budae jjigae on table
pot of budae jjigae on table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Believe it or not, budae jjigae freezes well -- it is made up of non-perishable foods, after all. The best way to store this is without the noodles and cheese, which can change texture when frozen. If possible, make the budae jjigae without noodles and cool, then store in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. To eat from frozen, place in a pot and bring to a simmer, then finish cooking with the noodles and American cheese. If you've already made the dish and need to store leftovers, simply transfer them to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2–3 days. Because the noodles may soak up some of the broth overnight, add a few additional splashes of chicken broth (and a few pieces of kimchi, for good measure) before reheating. To reheat, simmer gently on the stove or heat, covered, in the microwave until hot. If needed, add a few more slices of cheese to keep it fresh and melty.

Budae Jjigae (Korean Army Base Soup) Recipe

budae jjigae in pot on table
budae jjigae in pot on table - Michelle McGlinn/Tasting Table

Prep Time: 10mCook Time: 14mYield: 4 servingsIngredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 scallions, whites and green parts separated, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons gochujang

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce

  • 1 (12-ounce) can Spam, sliced into ¼-inch slices

  • 4 hot dogs, sliced

  • 1 (14-ounce) block tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • ½ cup kimchi

  • 3 cups chicken broth

  • 6 ounces ramen noodles

  • 2 slices American cheese

Directions

  1. In a shallow braising pot or hot pot, whisk together the garlic, chopped scallion whites, gochujang, mirin, soy sauce, sugar, and fish sauce over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

  2. Arrange the Spam, hot dogs, tofu, and kimchi around the pot.

  3. Add the chicken broth slowly so that the stew ingredients stay arranged neatly.

  4. Cover and bring to a boil.

  5. Add the ramen noodles and cook, flipping once, until soft, about 3 minutes.

  6. Add the cheese and the green slices of scallions and remove from the heat.

  7. Allow cheese to melt slightly, then serve warm.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.